Plant phenology in western Canada: trends and links to the view from space

Environ Monit Assess. Oct-Nov 2003;88(1-3):419-29. doi: 10.1023/a:1025597829895.


One feature of climate change is the trends to earlier spring onset in many north temperate areas of the world. The timing of spring flowering and leafing of perennial plants is largely controlled by temperature accumulation; both temperature and phenological records illustrate changes in recent decades. Phenology studies date back over a century, with extensive databases existing for western Canada. Earlier spring flowering has been noted for many woody plants, with larger trends seen for species that develop at spring's start. Implications for ecosystems of trends to earlier spring arrival include changes in plant species composition, changes in timing and distribution of pests and disease, and potentially disrupted ecological interactions. While Alberta has extensive phenology databases (for species, years, and geographic coverage) for recent decades, these data cannot provide continuous ground coverage. There is great potential for phenological data to provide ground validation for satellite imagery interpretation, especially as new remote sensors are becoming available. Phenological networks are experiencing a resurgence of interest in Canada ( and globally, and linking these ground-based observations with the view from space will greatly enhance our capacity to track the biotic response to climate changes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Flowers*
  • Greenhouse Effect*
  • Plants*
  • Population Dynamics
  • Seasons
  • Spacecraft